Spotlight on Success: Wil Reynolds
By: Brian J. Odelli
While many set out to become entrepreneurs, the same cannot be said for Wil Reynolds of Seer Interactive. Reynolds had no intension of becoming a business owner, let alone the leader of the Philadelphia area’s top search optimization company. “After graduating college I moved to Connecticut and worked for one of the first internet marketing firms, Netmarketing. In 2001 I went to work for AON in their search and analytics group. After my time at AON I knew that I wanted to work in the search engine optimization field so I left AON and went in search of a new position. Every company I interviewed with came up with some reason not to hire me, so I decided to start my own company. I’d like to say that I had some grand plan, but the truth is that Seer was created so I could have a job.” Wil Reynolds breaks the mold when one thinks of a typical entrepreneur.
Where many people spend time and money earning an MBA, developing lengthy business plans and overanalyzing their business strategy, Reynolds approach is rather simplistic, but it works. In fact, it’s quite refreshing. “The main difference between Seer Interactive and our competitors is that we really care about our people and our customers. Other company’s talk the talk, but they don’t walk the walk. In the search optimization industry, clients are often viewed as only a revenue source, a means to an end. We do not operate that way. I don’t spend that much time worrying about the company’s bottom line and profitability. Our clients aren’t a line item on a financial statement. They are real people with families to feed. We never lose sight of that fact. We have always taken the view that if we do our job well, our clients will want to see us succeed. I’ve put my trust in the quality of our work and in the hands of our clients. They haven’t let me down yet.” That’s not to say that there haven’t been challenging times for the company or difficult decisions for its leader. “Throughout our company’s history, I’ve had to fire our largest client once and our second largest client twice. These are always hard decisions, but I have never regretted doing so. If a client ever treats my team with disrespect, they have to go. It is important to me that my employees know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I will never sell them out for money.”
These are profound thoughts for a 34 year old. It became obvious very quickly that this kind of internal belief system was learned through real life experience, so I asked Will about his upbringing. “I grew up outside of Cherry Hill and my Mother and Father instilled a strong work ethic in me, not so much through the things they said, but more so by their actions. My Dad grew up in a rough neighborhood (not far from Wil’s current office at North 2nd Street in Philadelphia – the North Liberty neighborhood, like many sections of Philadelphia has undergone a revitalization). He wanted a better life for his family, so in order to provide that life for us, he worked three jobs. I attended private schools in an effort to give me the best foundation for life possible. While my wife and I don’t have children yet, I think that all of the decisions I make in life flow out of my goal to be the best husband and father I can be, to pass on the work ethic and love for my family that my Mom and Dad passed onto me.” I’m sure that Wil’s parents are very proud of their son.
As you can probably imagine, when you are 34 and run a 3 time Philly 100 winning business, your time is in high demand. Reynolds is often asked to speak to young entrepreneurs, industry groups, as well as, participating in panel discussions on business issues. With that type of experience I thought our readers would have an interest in hearing the keys to Wil Reynolds success. “I always tell young entrepreneurs that before you get into business, you really need a core set of beliefs and values, because throughout the course of your career in business you will be tested. If you don’t have these beliefs and values in place, you will likely make decisions that may be beneficial in the short term, but in the long-term, they will hurt you.” I asked Wil if he would be willing to share his core beliefs and values with us. “I don’t overcomplicate things. I think that when it comes to your belief system, less is more. I’m a firm believer that you treat people like you want to be treated. I don’t over work my team and I never ever chose money or material things over the well being of my employees or our clients.”
When asked what gives him the greatest satisfaction when he thinks about the organization he created, Reynolds, sitting back in his chair, looked out the window of his 2nd floor conference room for a moment and then looking back at me says, “I don’t think I can say there is just one thing, but more so a collection of things. I think the fact that we have never lost an employee to the competition is something that makes me very proud. The fact that we help quite a few people provide for their families through the work we do is also very gratifying and that all the success we have experienced has come without a sales team is something most people can’t believe. My goal has never been to grow the company quickly, but rather we strive to do the best possible job we can for our clients.” Making sure that Seer Interactive remains true to its core beliefs and values, while delivering a world class experience to its clients ranks high on Wil’s priority list. “It was never my intention to be a “manager” when I founded the company. My passion is helping our clients maximize the benefits of internet search optimization. I enjoy having my hands in the soil so to say. If a day ever comes when I don’t enjoy coming into the office and getting my hands dirty, I’ll do something else.” Based upon the level of enthusiasm and determination that I have experienced in the time I have known Wil, I wouldn’t bet on that happening any time soon.